Walking to the African market I found a stack of flat metal items. They reminded me of small pizza pans with their three-foot handles to bake in elongated clay ovens.  The problem was I’d never seen any pizza in any village nor had I ever seen any bush people eating it.  What could the people do with all those pans?

Smiling at the vender I picked up a larger one. “What exactly is this?”

She chattered in her language, grabbed the pan and thrust it forward. I picked up the twelve inch one, and she grinned. “Three dollars.”  

Examining it I saw it would be easy to remove the long handle. Then she showed me a stack of plastic pans and insisted I buy one of them. No one can bake with a plastic pizza pan.

I continued down the rural market. There were stacks of those trays, pizza pans or flat shovels everywhere.

I asked another woman, “What is this?”

She made the same forward thrusting movement. Shaking her head, she puckered her brows as if I should know what it was. After buying a metal one, I removed the long handle which I passed to her. The woman shoved it back at me.  Shaking my head, I put the rod in the corner of her shop and left with my pan.

Cookie sheets are also nonexistent in Africa. So I prepared the dough for baking in my new oven. As I lifted out a tray of sugar cookies, the pastor knocked on the door.

“Please come in. I am happy I found a pan in the market I can bake. Would you like a cookie?”

The pastor glared, stepped backwards and sat in the chair. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I know. I was surprised to find a pizza pan in this rural village.”

“What’s a pizzzzaahh pan?”

“Isn’t this it?”

“You’re the first missionary I’ve ever seen using a dust pan to bake biscuits.”

“A dust pan. I can’t believe it. Why are there so many of them everywhere?

You white folks have used them a long time. The manufacturers are trying to encourage us to buy and use them.”

I laughed and laughed. When the Africans told the story it was funnier, and they laughed more. Then we laughed together.

Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”

I sometimes chuckled at the bizarre beliefs and actions of the local people. But it was good when they laughed at the crazy things this white missionary did. There is unity when folks can laugh together.




About celestecharlene

I served as a medical missionary in West Africa for thirty years treating the sick and establishing health clinics in rural neglected areas.
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